Commentary Critical and Explanatory
on the Whole Bible
This chapter and the fourteenth chapter probably belong to the troubled
times that followed Pekah's murder by Hoshea (compare
The subject is the idolatry of Ephraim, notwithstanding God's past
benefits, destined to be his ruin.
1. When Ephraim spake trembling--rather, "When Ephraim (the tribe
most powerful among the twelve in Israel's early history) spake
(authoritatively) there was trembling"; all reverentially feared him
Job 29:8, 9, 21).
offended in Baal--that is, in respect to Baal, by worshipping him
under Ahab; a more heinous offense than even the calves. Therefore it
is at this climax of guilt that Ephraim "died." Sin has, in the sight
of God, within itself the germ of death, though that death may not
visibly take effect till long after. Compare
"Sin revived, and I died." So Adam in the day of his sin was to
die, though the sentence was not visibly executed till long after
(Ge 2:17; 5:5).
Israel is similarly represented as politically dead in
2. according to their own understanding--that is, their arbitrary
devising. Compare "will-worship,"
Men are not to be "wise above that which is written," or to follow
their own understanding, but God's command in worship.
kiss the calves--an act of adoration to the golden calves (compare
3. they shall be as the morning cloud . . . dew--
As their "goodness" soon vanished like the morning cloud and dew, so
they shall perish like them.
the floor--the threshing-floor, generally an open area, on a height,
exposed to the winds.
chimney--generally in the East an orifice in the wall, at once
admitting the light, and giving egress to the smoke.
no saviour--temporal as well as spiritual.
5. I did know thee--did acknowledge thee as Mine, and so took care
As I knew thee as Mine, so thou shouldest know no
God but Me
in . . . land of . . . drought--
6. Image from cattle, waxing wanton in abundant pasture (compare
Ho 2:5, 8;
In proportion as I fed them to the full, they were so satiated that
"their heart was exalted"; a sad contrast to the time when, by God's
blessing, Ephraim truly "exalted himself in Israel"
therefore have they forgotten me--the very reason why men should
remember God (namely, prosperity, which comes from Him) is the cause
often of their forgetting Him. God had warned them of this danger
(De 6:11, 12).
leopard--The Hebrew comes from a root meaning "spotted"
Leopards lurk in thickets and thence spring on their victims.
observe--that is, lie in wait for them. Several manuscripts, the
Septuagint, Vulgate, Syriac, and Arabic read, by a slight change
of the Hebrew vowel pointing, "by the way of Assyria," a region
abounding in leopards and lions. English Version is better.
8. "Writers on the natures of beasts say that none is more savage than
a she bear, when bereaved of her whelps"
caul of . . . heart--the membrane enclosing it: the
there--"by the way"
9. thou . . . in me--in contrast.
hast destroyed thyself--that is, thy destruction is of thyself
(Pr 6:32; 8:36).
in me is thine help--literally, "in thine help" (compare
Hadst thou rested thy hope in Me, I would have been always ready
at hand for thy help [GROTIUS].
10. I will be thy king; where--rather, as the Margin and the
Septuagint, Syriac, Vulgate, "Where now is thy king?"
English Version is, however, favored both by the Hebrew, by the
antithesis between Israel's self-chosen and perishing kings, and God,
Israel's abiding King (compare
Ho 3:4, 5).
where . . . Give me a king--Where now is the king whom ye substituted
in My stead? Neither Saul, whom the whole nation begged for, not
contented with Me their true king
(1Sa 8:5, 7, 19, 20; 10:19),
nor Jeroboam, whom subsequently the ten tribes chose instead of the
line of David My anointed, can save thee now. They had expected from
their kings what is the prerogative of God alone, namely, the power of
judges--including all civil authorities under the king (compare
11. I gave . . . king in . . . anger . . . took . . . away in . . .
wrath--true both of Saul
(1Sa 15:22, 23; 16:1)
and of Jeroboam's line
Pekah was taken away through Hoshea, as he himself took away Pekahiah;
and as Hoshea was soon to be taken away by the Assyrian king.
12. bound up . . . hid--Treasures, meant to be kept, are bound up and
hidden; that is, do not flatter yourselves, because of the delay, that I
have forgotten your sin. Nay
Ephraim's iniquity is kept as it were safely sealed up, until the due
time comes for bringing it forth for punishment
Job 14:17; 21:19;
Opposed to "blotting out the handwriting against" the sinner
13. sorrows of a travailing woman--calamities sudden and agonizing
unwise--in not foreseeing the impending judgment, and averting it by
he should not stay long in the place of the breaking forth of
children--When Israel might deliver himself from calamity by the pangs
of penitence, he brings ruin on himself by so long deferring a new birth
unto repentance, like a child whose mother has not strength to bring it
forth, and which therefore remains so long in the passage from the womb
as to run the risk of death
Isa 37:3; 66:9).
14. Applying primarily to God's restoration of Israel from Assyria
partially, and, in times yet future, fully from all the lands of their
present long-continued dispersion, and political death (compare
Isa 25:8; 26:19;
God's power and grace are magnified in quickening what to the eye of
flesh seems dead and hopeless
(Ro 4:17, 19).
As Israel's history, past and future, has a representative character in
relation to the Church, this verse is expressed in language alluding to
Messiah's (who is the ideal Israel) grand victory over the grave and
death, the first-fruits of His own resurrection, the full harvest to
come at the general resurrection; hence the similarity between this
verse and Paul's language as to the latter
That similarity becomes more obvious by translating as the
Septuagint, from which Paul plainly quotes; and as the same
Hebrew word is translated in
"O death, where are thy plagues (paraphrased by the
Septuagint, 'thy victory')? O grave, where is thy destruction
(rendered by the Septuagint, 'thy sting')?" The question is that
of one triumphing over a foe, once a cruel tyrant, but now robbed of
all power to hurt.
repentance shall be hid from mine eyes--that is, I will not change My
purpose of fulfilling My promise by delivering Israel, on the condition
of their return to Me (compare
15. fruitful--referring to the meaning of "Ephraim," from a
Hebrew root, "to be fruitful"
It was long the most numerous and flourishing of the tribes
wind of the Lord--that is, sent by the Lord (compare
who has His instruments of punishment always ready. The Assyrian,
Shalmaneser, &c., is meant
(Jer 4:11; 18:17;
from the wilderness--that is, the desert part of Syria
the route from Assyria into Israel.
he--the Assyrian invader. Shalmaneser began the siege of Samaria
in 723 B.C. Its close was in 721 B.C., the first year of Sargon, who seems to have
usurped the throne of Assyria while Shalmaneser was at the siege of
Samaria. Hence, while
states, "the king of Assyria took Samaria,"
says, "at the end of three years they took it." In Sargon's
magnificent palace at Khorsabad, inscriptions mention the
number--27,280--of Israelites carried captive from Samaria and other
places of Israel by the founder of the palace [G. V. SMITH].
16. This verse and
foretell the calamities about to befall Israel before her restoration
owing to her impenitence.
her God--the greatest aggravation of her rebellion, that it was
against her God
infants . . . dashed in pieces, &c.--
(2Ki 8:12; 15:16;